January 28, 2003
MEMORANDUM FOR: Vickers Meadows, Assistant Secretary
Office of Administration
FROM: Carolyn Federoff, President, Council of HUD Locals 222
SUBJECT: Request for Intervention Reasonable Accommodation Procedures
On January 25, 2003, the Union filed a request for assistance with the Federal Services Impasses Panel (FSIP). A copy was sent to you via Express Mail. Because of time constraints imposed by the FSIP we had no choice but to file the paperwork requesting their assistance. We are asking that they agree that the contract supplement being negotiated include all aspects of requests for reasonable accommodation, including requests for electronic equipment. If you agree to include electronic equipment in the supplement, we can withdraw the request with FSIP.
The impasse appears to have occurred due to a lack of communication between HUD’s cylinders. ODEEO has the responsibility for handling reasonable accommodation requests that pertain to everything but electronic equipment. The Information Technology Department handles the electronic equipment requests. Since ODEEO wrote the handbook they did not include ITD’s policies and procedures; they merely told the reader to contact ITD. Based upon our discussion with ITD staff, we understand that there may be no written policy for electronic equipment requests. Since both ITD and ODEEO are under your purview of responsibilities, it is hoped that you can assist in getting this issue resolved.
The Union wants to have the entire Department’s polices and procedures for employees requiring reasonable accommodations in one handbook and contract supplement for quick and easy reference for employees and managers. This is a very simple concept, which, as the Union suggested, can be accomplished by adding a chapter to the Handbook. Since Management has stated that the Handbook has not gone through clearance, the process should be very simple. However, if Management believes that the Handbook process is too cumbersome to include both, we would settle for a contract supplement that included both.
During negotiations ITD made a short presentation of their process and procedures. After the presentation, the Union agreed that it had no objections to the process used by ITD. We were very pleased to learn that ITD does not deny any reasonable accommodation request and that requests are normally provided within 48 hours. ITD stated that they did not have the process in a handbook or document that could be provided to us. Mr. Weathers referred us to the IT web site, but the information is difficult to find and is incomplete.
After the presentation, the Union suggested that the Supplement include the process outlined by Mr. Weathers. The Agency’s Negotiating team stressed that they did not have authority to negotiate on behalf of ITD. The Union then proposed a Memorandum of Understanding whereby Management would agree to write IT procedures and negotiate with the Union within 30 days. Management refused citing that the scope of the negotiations is limited to Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and suggesting that Section 501 does not include requests for electronic equipment.
We strongly disagree with Management’s assertion that electronic equipment is only covered under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. You should note that if Section 501 does not apply, then the Agency has no right to request medical documentation to verify the need for electronic equipment, as Section 508 does not address verification; for example, none of HUD’s entitlement communities have a right to documentation of medical need for it’s clients because 504 does not address documentation either. It is very rare that I request OGC’s review, but in this case I urge you to talk to OGC about the application of Section 501 to electronic equipment. (For a fuller discussion of our arguments regarding the application of Section 501, please see the FSIP assistance request that we provided to you.)
Lastly, needless to say, this sort of action on the part of the agency has a negative effect on the employees. When we notified employees nationwide of the Agency’s position on this matter, the Council received overwhelming responses within the first few hours the notice was given. Attached please find a sampling of e-mails the Council received expressing employees’ concerns over the Agency’s position. Numerous more are on our web site located at http://afgecouncil222.tripod.com.
We hope that you can resolve this matter. We look forward to hearing from you. Please call me at 617/994-8264 or Sherry Norton, Chief Negotiator for this session at 904/232-1777 ext 2117.